Bernie Sanders Praised for Visiting New York City Public Housing Project

Residents said he was the first presidential candidate they've seen there.

ByABC News
April 17, 2016, 8:18 PM

— -- Two days before the New York primary, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders toured one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods much to the surprise of local residents.

"Nice to get to know you now," one lady told Sanders, shaking his hand as he exited a public housing project and stopped by a playground in Brownsville, Brooklyn. "I was against you at first."

"I am not so bad as I look on TV," Sanders replied.

"No, you aren't. It is nice to see that you are coming through here. So, you might get our vote now," she continued, before turning to the crowd who had formed around Sanders. "He actually came to the 'hood to get our vote. He shook our hands."

Brownsville has been listed as one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City, with a high crime rate, too. According to a study by the city last year, 76 percent of the population in the neighborhood is African American and more than 37 percent live below the federal poverty line.

Two city councilmen and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams led Sanders on his tour. The Vermont senator addressed reporters at the end of his visit.

"People should not be forced to live in dilapidated housing where elevators break down and elderly people have to walk eight flights up or down to go and get some groceries," Sanders said. "What this campaign is about is transforming our national priorities, rebuilding our infrastructure, and when we talk about rebuilding our infrastructure, that means rebuilding housing projects like this. Not only here in New York, but all over this country."

New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor asked the senator to respond to critics who might call the visit a publicity stunt.

"If I wasn’t here, then people would say, 'Why didn’t you show up?'" Sanders responded. "The point is, I can understand the cynicism. Believe me, I can understand the cynicism. All right, but my understanding is that not too many presidential candidates have come to Brownsville housing projects."

"Exactly never," city councilman Ritchie Torres from the Bronx interjected.

"Bottom line here again, this is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We are not a poor country. We can’t afford to maintain public housing?" Sanders continued.

Kenneth Graham, a resident of the neighborhood, greeted Sanders' hand and asked the candidate for his help with the neighborhood.

"I think it's cool," Graham said about Sanders' visit. He said it was the first time he had seen a presidential candidate in the neighborhood. "For me, his energy feels nice. I give him the benefit of the doubt."

Sanders said that the federal government should be investing more in communities like Brownsville.

Just days before the New York primary, Sanders spent much of the day shaking hands and taking selfies. He has been lagging behind Hillary Clinton, who was a New York senator before becoming secretary of state, in recent state-wide polls.

The campaign said that more than 28,300 people turned out for a rally this afternoon in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.